Boreray, the Island and the Sheep
The Island of Boreray is four miles to the north east of other islands of St. Kilda. It has been known as “The Fortress”. It is accompanied by sea stacks the two largest of which are Stac an Armin and Stac Lee. These Stacs and also the great cliffs of Boreray are home to thousands of nesting Gannets, Fulmars and Puffins.
Boreray can be accessed from only a few places and only when seas are passive. With no anchorage a small boat can only get alongside the island when seas are their calmest and then visitors have to jump to the rocks or swim to them. Even then there is a very difficult climb up the rocks to the higher levels where there is some vegetation.
The St. Kildans kept a reserve flock of their domestic sheep on Boreray. These were originally a breed of Scottish Tan-Face a small, short tailed sheep. In the mid eighteen hundreds the breed was “improved” with the introduction of Hebridean Blackface rams. The pure Scottish Tan-Face is now extinct.
The St. Kildans would visit Boreray to take wool from these sheep as well as a few animals to replenish their flock back on Hirta. Those taken off the island were thrown into the sea and picked up by the waiting boat.
When St. Kilda was evacuated in 1930 this reserve flock was left behind, probably because it was not possible to get the sheep off the island. They have lived there ever since as a feral flock which has not been managed in any way.
Boreray sheep grazing on Boreray Island photo courtesy of Murdo Macdonald